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Superintendent and Board President Statement on Acellus Curriculum
Posted 8/31/20

Dear Remote Learning Program families,

As noted in this morning’s email message, the administration is recommending to the Board of Education that we discontinue our use of Acellus for the Remote Learning Program. This is due to widespread reports of content that is racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise inappropriate for our students, our schools, and our community at large. As a district, we do not condone such content and absolutely do not want to be a vehicle for presenting such content to students.

We are currently investigating two alternative remote learning platforms to use instead. We will inform remote school families of the administration’s recommendation later this week. We then estimate it will take ten to 14 days to train our teachers, provide information to families, and implement the program. In the meantime, our learning coaches will be working with Remote Learning Program teachers to provide standards-based, grade-level instruction and assignments to all students.

We want to emphasize, however, that we cannot guarantee that the new program will be 100 percent free of problems. When examined closely, considerable existing curricula have issues of implicit (sometimes explicit) bias and lean toward a Eurocentric perspective. This does not mean we accept such lapses. Indeed, moving forward this year, we are partnering with Kingmakers of Oakland to do a comprehensive equity audit of our existing curricula, policies, and practices, with an eye toward continuously improving curriculum in a manner that reflects our beliefs of equity and inclusion. We can and will continue to be vigilant about how various curricula depict issues related to gender, race, family structure, and healthy behavior.

We understand that a natural question at this juncture is “How did this happen?" There are a number of factors that contributed to our selection of Acellus for the Remote Learning Program early this summer, including the fact that we have been using that platform for some supplemental content and high school credit recovery for seven years and no concerns had been raised.

In addition, we believed that Acellus offered some features that we felt made it better aligned with our current logistical and operational needs in comparison to other online learning platforms we reviewed. Clearly, that level of familiarity resulted in our letting our guard down about the content, especially at the elementary level.

Ultimately, we can assure you that had we been aware of the problematic content we would not have chosen to extend the use of Acellus for the Remote Learning Program, and we are in the process of discontinuing its limited use as supplemental curriculum elsewhere in AUSD. Potential advantages that we initially identified in the Acellus program are not worth the potential harm that could be caused by the curriculum’s inclusion of harmful assertions and assumptions.

We take responsibility, for both the situation at hand and for ensuring that the lessons learned here help chart a path to a better and systemically improved approach to content review. The work of a genuinely inclusive district is, in our view, a process of continuously working to align our actions with our values. While this transition no doubt represents one more challenge for our families, we believe this is the best path forward if we want that alignment to be authentic.

Additionally, the Board of Education has agendized this matter for an upcoming board meeting to promote transparency and communication regarding curriculum selection and the vetting process for Acellus as the curriculum choice for the Remote Learning Program, as well as to outline a path forward.

Additional specifics on both short term and long term programming and content will be sent to remote school families tomorrow.


Pasquale Scuderi

Mialisa Bonta
President, Board of Education